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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)

TITLE: Out of Time
By Peter Stone


I realised straight away that something was wrong when Pastor John, an applicant for the position of assistant pastor, froze in mid step. Nor was it restricted to him - all of my office staff had turned into motionless statues, as though time itself had stopped.

I ceased describing my church’s impressive array of programs and looked about in confusion, only to cry out in shock when a tall man dressed entirely in white stepped out from behind my visitor.

“Who…who are you?” I stammered.

“My name is Gabriel, Pastor David.”

The Gabriel?” I asked. Was this a vision?

“The one and only,” he replied.

“But why are you here? What’s going on? Why has everyone frozen?”

“I have pulled you out of the time stream for the moment,” Gabriel explained patiently, “in order to show you a horrid malady that is creeping through the Church worldwide – including this one that you pastor.” He stopped to study my face with disturbing intensity. “Would you like to know what it is?”

“Ah…okay,” I stammered.

“Then come with me!”

I screamed in terror as machine gun bullets tore up the ground about my feet. A mortar shell exploded nearby and shrapnel tore past my face. I wanted to throw myself down in fear, but seeing Gabriel standing rock solid beside me gave me pause.

I realised that American Marines were all about me, running with controlled haste from soldiers of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, who were pouring unchecked over the crest of a nearby hill. The machine gun opened fire again and several Marines collapsed to the ground, moaning in pain.

“Third Squad, retrieve those wounded and escort them to the rear!” shouted the Second Lieutenant.

“But sir!” complained the squad’s Sergeant, “there are too many of them - we won’t make it!”

“First Squad, suppress that enemy machine gun!” snapped the Second Lieutenant, “Sergeant – save those men! We leave no one behind, soldier!”

The Sergeant led his squad into the fire zone. They lifted up the wounded and quickly escorted them to the rear.

The roar of weapons was so loud that Gabriel had to shout in my ear. “This body of soldiers is the U.S. 1st Marine Division in Korea, 1950. Although retreating, it protects its wounded at all costs.”

The scene changed and I found myself standing in shin deep snow. I shivered uncontrollably as I was dressed for summer. My breath caught in my throat when I saw a column of thousands of inadequately dressed French soldiers, clinging to muskets with frost bitten fingers, trudging dejectedly past me.

As I watched, a soldier with his arm in a sling fell to the snow beside the road. “Help me!” he implored, but his fellows paid him no heed.

“Please, someone, help me!” said another soldier with a bandaged head as he also collapsed upon the snow. In response, two of his comrades stripped off his jacket and trousers in order to make themselves warmer, and then abandoned him to freeze to death.

“As you can see, Pastor, this disheartened body of soldiers - what is left of Napoleon’s Grande Armee that invaded Russian in 1812 – no longer tends to its wounded.”

Gabriel leaned closer. “Would you like to see how another body of soldiers, the body of Christ, the Church, treats its wounded?”

“Um, ah, yes?” I croaked.

I found myself standing in a familiar house, where a downcast elderly couple sat eating their breakfast.

“Do you recognise this couple?” the angel asked.

“Yes, they’re Mr. and Mrs. Gable. They used to come to my church, but I haven’t seen them for awhile.”

“They left because the music is too loud. No apologies were made, no one has checked on them since they left; no attempt has been made to soften the music. Now they languish at home alone. Consequently, your church now lacks their wisdom,” spelt out Gabriel.

Now I was standing in a bedroom, next to a young man who lay on his bed, rocking from side to side.

“Do you recognise him?” asked Gabriel.

“Ah, yes, Steve Melton. He graduated from my Bible College, but I have not seen him lately.”

“He worked so hard in the church that he burnt himself out. For several weeks now he has been like this. But no one checks on him, no one comes to comfort and sit beside him.” Gabriel turned suddenly to appraise me intently. “Pastor David, you Christians, the Church, are the body of Christ. Why do you leave your wounded to die?”

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This article has been read 1060 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 12/13/07
Is it any wonder the church has so little credibility in the world? We like to convince ourselves that we are being persecuted for Christ's sake—truth is much of the badmouthing we experience, we earned all by ourselves. Good reminder.
Sally Hanan12/13/07
Very impactful. I like how you brought history into this and then produced visuals of common neglect that happen today.
Marita Vandertogt12/13/07
There are a lot of "wounded soldiers" out there... this is beautifully written... and a very powerful message. Thank you!
Joanne Sher 12/14/07
What an analogy! Your battle descriptions are so vivid - and the comparison to how we treat our "soldiers" sobering and convicting. Very strong piece.
Dianne Janak12/16/07
This was powerful. The message came through with such clarity, I got goose bumps. The truth hurts, and its the truth. We have such a long way to go... good writing...
Debbie Wistrom12/18/07
The was spectacular. Stops to make one think. Thanks for the abrupt message.
Jan Ackerson 12/18/07
Ouch! So true, and painful to read. You're a fantastic writer.
Catrina Bradley 12/18/07
The opening immediately grabbed me, great attention getter! The story is filled with action, and I like the casual dialog with Gabriel. The present day examples are very convicting, and you end it with a gut-punch. Great writing!
David Butler12/19/07
Wow! This looks like the Christian's answer to the series "Heroes". Great idea. The message packs a wallop too. Yes, I've heard it said that the Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. This is the most creative and powerful way I've seen that message conveyed. Well done.
LauraLee Shaw12/19/07
Goosebumps. A powerful and convicting read with a message I will never forget.
Loren T. Lowery12/19/07
A well written entreaty for compassion and careing or our sick and wonded brothers and sisters. Empathy that is all too commonly found to be grately lacking in our "busy" world. Great way to present this message.
Sharlyn Guthrie12/19/07
Great message! I was a little confused with the drastic change in scenes until the very end. Your ending is poignant.
Sara Harricharan 12/19/07
This brought tears to my eyes. So very said to see all of this and to realize how true it is.
My only note is one nitpick, instead of telling how he was dressed for summer, mention how he shivered in shorts or a bermuda shirt or something, add a little more detail there, otherwise, pretty good!
Sheri Gordon12/19/07
I love the examples you use to make the point about the Church. Wonderful writing, and a very powerful message. Good job with the topic.
Betty Castleberry12/19/07
The truth of this cuts deep. This is very well written, and the message is outstanding. Well done.
Dee Yoder 12/21/07
Great impact in the ending question. What do we do with the ones who leave, who drift away, who get discouraged? Nothing. What a shame. Your story points out the truth of how we weaken the body of Christ when we cease to care.